Day 3 in Israel, West Bank, Pesagot, Ariel, Samaria

Day 3 was the day to cross the infamous wall that we have heard so much about. You know, the wall the Pope kissed, the wall that supposedly destroyed the chance of the Palestinians to do anything, the wall that essentially stopped the suicide bombing attacks that killed at least 600 Israeli civilians.

To my American eyes, the wall was a jolt. As we passed through the checkpoint in a breeze, I actually had to ask Chanan Elias, my gracious host from The Face of Israel, if that was the infamous wall. His reply was yes. I incredulously asked, “That is what the fuss is all about? We have bigger walls all over the United States.” It wasn’t very big. It doesn’t loom over anything. It’s part of the way down a hill and is utterly dwarfed by everything around it.

Interesting start to the day’s adventure.

All stops on today’s itinerary were in disputed territory in the West Bank. We passed through a couple small Palestinian villages and then arrived in Pesagot.

At Pesagot we visited the winery. I might as well have been back home visiting any winery in California: the oak barrels, the fermenting tanks, the display of wines for sale. The people at the winery explained that the vines were planted on previously unproductive land, cultivated, and now are producing award-winning wines. Wines that are kosher. Kosher wines that taste good, you ask? Yes, I tasted a 2011 Cabernet and it was as fine as any.

Pesagot Winery
Pesagot Winery Photo: Joshua Fleisher

I asked about displacement of Palestinians to create Pesagot, the response was that this was not a residential or agricultural spot and hadn’t been used for a very long time.

We left the winery and drove to Ariel, location of Ariel University with 15,000 students.

During the journey, I simply could not help but notice the Palestinian villages, noted by the black water tanks whereas the Israelis use white, were almost indistinguishable as Palestinian based on the endless stories in the media about the horrid conditions forced on the Palestinians. The squalor was missing! The tin shacks of a Brazilian favela were nowhere to be seen!

Typical view of Palestinian Village in West Bank
Typical view of Palestinian Village in West Bank Photo: Joshua Fleisher

These were nice homes clustered in villages that looked like any I would expect to see, except significantly nicer. In nearly every cluster of Palestinian homes there was a beautiful three to five story mansion either on top of the hill or just in with the other houses. Sometimes there were several. One town, right before Shilo, was a Palestinian gated community of approximately 50 of these massive, beautiful, new mansions. It might have well been a tony suburb of Dallas.

The other thing I inquired about were that some cars had yellow license plates and others had white. Yellow license plates are Israeli and white are Palestinian. But they are all driving on the same roads? Yes, and I also could not differentiate the cars other than the license plate color. The Israelis and Palestinians all were driving similar cars. I would have thought, based on the news coverage, that the Palestinians only drove 30 year old Syrian hand-me-downs.

Also along the way, off to our left as we drove along highway 60, were Ramallah and Rawabi. Ramallah was a surprisingly modern looking city, only observed from a distance I realize, with several modern high rises with a very clean looking surrounding cityscape. Rawabi is a massive new city, master planned by the Palestinian Authority, to provide this a nice community for 40,000 people.

We arrived at Ariel, a hilltop, university town, with a little guard post and a single guard who opened the basic lift-arm and waved us in. We drove around and up to the main administration building. I felt like I could have been in any little college town in the United States. We were greeted and brought in to meet the Chancellor, Yigal Cohen Orgad. We had a little lunch and talked about the University. It is highly focused on medicine and biotechnology, the aim is to help the lives of people.

At Ariel University
At Ariel University Photo: Joshua Fleisher

I inquired about Palestinian students, do they attend as well? Yes, there are hundreds, plus Arab-Israelis. Have there been incidents, are the Palestinian students safe, do they get harassed? No, they are treated exactly the same as everyone else and we haven’t had incidents.

Back on the road again, this time to Samaria, our final stop of the day. An iIsraeli industrial park surrounded by Palestinian villages. Makes sense, economic activity lifts everyone right?

I went in to Shamir Salads facility. We entered a meeting room and met the CEO, Amiram Guy, and Israeli. We tasted the variety of hummus, babaganoush, and other dips they make at the plant. All were delicious by the way, and I discovered that I prefer Druze style hummus, which is slight less ground beans.

How many employees do you have and how many are Palestinian? We have 140 total employees and between 90 and 100 are Palestinian. What kind of wages do you pay them? Average they make net US $2000 per month plus health and pension, which is four to five times the average teacher salary in Palestinian controlled areas, this is a high wage for this area. Do you provide them safe working conditions? Yes, we follow every Israeli law. Do you have any issues with violence? No, we have not had any problems.

I surprised everyone when I said I wanted to go and tour the factory, see it for myself. You see, I grew up in and around the food business. I know what a U.S. factory like this should look like, smell like, safety measures, equipment, and the like.

So we went out to the factory and put on the gear to protect the food from contamination from us.

In The Shamir Salads Plant
In The Shamir Salads Plant Photo: Joshua Fleisher

Indeed, nearly every worker was Palestinian, and this was a modern, food processing facility. It looked like it could have been anywhere in the United States, all equipment looked similar, basic processes were identical, standard safety procedures were in place, except there was mainly Arabic in the air and not English or Spanish. Amazing.

We made one additional stop to visit the Israeli local governing body. The mayor was a kindly man who took pains to explain to meet their desire to work with and help the Palestinians, regardless of the top diplomats. He explained how when they purchased new municipal water filtration equipment, they offered free water, no strings attached, to the surrounding Palestinian communities but the Palestinian authorities flatly rejected it.

Finally back to Jerusalem. We arrived back at the vaunted wall and highly publicized checkpoint. I made sure to really look around and observe the area. I spotted one Palestinian family camped out near the wall, it appeared they were just there temporarily for the day. Otherwise, this looked far less ominous or dominating than the U.S. border near Tijuana, Mexico. I almost laugh to compare the two, especially with the furor over this checkpoint expressed in the international media.

We drove up, there were multiple lanes for traffic, armed Israeli soldiers manning each lane, checking the papers of people passing through. We got the twice over because of me in the passenger seat not speaking to the guard in Hebrew. I observed a van of Palestinians, to my right, having their papers checked. And then we were waved through.

Has no journalist ever crossed the Mexico/U.S. border from Mexico? You have got to be kidding me. Crossing from the Palestinian side to the Israeli side was a simple compared to crossing from Mexico to the U.S. at a border checkpoint. Getting into the U.S. takes hours waiting in line, far more visible security cameras and device, a more menacing looking facility, and a near interrogation from U.S. officials.

I understand that I didn’t visit any refugee camps today that still exist in the West Bank. But clearly, what has been portrayed in the media is far away from the reality on the ground.

Thank you to Vicky Culver, Haole Craig, the Gorson’s, Andrew in Austin, TX, and everyone else for contributing so far.

If you haven’t yet and would like to support this trip. Please contribute what you can by clicking the Donate button below.

Contributions of $100 will receive public acknowledgement on this website’s postings from Israel.

Contributions of $500 or more will receive public acknowledgement in videos I produce and on my nationally syndicated Ethan Bearman Show.

Thank you!



Please note that donations to Ethan Bearman Company are not a tax deductible charitable donation

Day 2 in Israel, Ashkelon and Sderot

What I am calling Day 2 was really my first full day in Israel.

It started with a beautiful sunrise in Jerusalem. A real National Geographic moment looking out of my hotel room at the gentle pink and gray colors washing over the mostly tan colors of the buildings.

I joined Chanan Elias with The Face of Israel, our videographer Joshua, and our driver Alexey, for a winding drive through central Israel. A variety of agricultural passed by, improved by the Israeli created drip irrigation systems: grapefruit, corn, grapes, watermelons, sunflowers, and more.

We arrived at the outskirts of Ashkelon, 15 km from Gaza. We stopped to look at an Iron Dome defense battery. The soldier at the guard post firmly waved us back as we approached, giving instruction on what pictures were not allowed. So, we moved the approved distance back, stood in a recently tilled field, observed and discussed the Iron Dome system, the growth of the city, and listened to the distant sounds of war.

Iron Dome outside Ashkelon
Iron Dome outside Ashkelon Photo: Joshua Fleisher

Next, we drove in to Ashkelon proper to meet with Dr. Alan Marcus, Director Strategic Planning Branch and Chief Resilience Officer for the city of Ashkelon. He showed us the combination bomb shelter and brains of the city’s emergency response and monitoring facilities.

Ethan with Dr. Alan Marcus in Ashkelon
Ethan with Dr. Alan Marcus in Ashkelon Photo: Joshua Fleisher

It was a fascinating insight into what a government agency can achieve. Dr. Marcus brings an inventor or entrepreneurial approach to problem solving. How best to serve and protect citizenry when rockets are hitting your city with regularity? He leveraged his background in Geographic Information Systems (his PhD) and built an advanced system to layer resources such as the handicapped, elderly, and children, alongside where industrial chemical in the city are stored. Then, when a rocket strikes the emergency responders know exactly who and how to help, what are the dangers, and what kind of psychological response team might be necessary.

We next ventured over to Barzilai Hospital. This is the closest hospital, not a Level 1 Trauma Center, closest to Gaza. It is renowned not just for its proximity to the zone where fighting occurs, but the fact that Palestinians, and Hamas fighters in particular, are treated here. In Israel. In my short time near the emergency entrance, at least a half-dozen military vehicles delivered wounded patients. An equal number of ambulances and private vehicles brought in wounded and injured as well.

Barzilai Medical Center, Ashkelon, Israel
Barzilai Medical Center, Ashkelon, Israel

Time to get closer to the combat zone.

15 minutes down the road from Ashkelon is Sderot. The town center is one mile from Gaza. In Ashkelon you have 30 seconds to get to a bomb shelter when the Red Alert sounds, in Sderot it is 15 seconds.

Here is where the threat from rockets hung heavily over the town like a fog. No children outside. Little activity on the streets. A rougher look to the buildings with litter strewn about. There is a bombed out side of a house.

A man and his daughter took us to cheerful looking children’s playground. It was eerily deserted, quiet. She spoke little English and told Chanan she wanted to talk to me and share her story.

Legacy HeritageP ark of Good Wishes, Sderot, Israel
Legacy HeritageP ark of Good Wishes, Sderot, Israel Photo: Joshua Fleisher

The last 14 years of her 23 years on earth in her hometown of Sderot were filled with the constant fear of rockets. Since the second Intifada started by the late PLO leader, Yasser Arafat, rockets have been exploding in Sderot. I thought it was only since Hamas took over in 2006, but sadly, no.

She shared with me her psychological trauma of caring for 15-20 children, the Red Alert sounding, her own panic to find immediate shelter, but needing to stay calm and cheerful for the children as she ushered them to safety. The regular explosions of rockets landing. Her fear of having a family and raising children where they are never safe.

I asked about all of the times when there wasn’t a flare up in violence or war. Much to my surprise since we never hear this, the rockets rain down even during peacetimes and ceasefires.

The whole time I could hear the irregular thumping of explosions, be it artillery or otherwise. Time to go to the hill the overlooks Gaza. The hill made infamous by social media and CNN where the local population, traumatized by 14 years or rockets falling from the sky, go to see what is happening a half-mile away.

On The Hill in Sderot, Israel
On The Hill in Sderot, Israel Photo: Joshua Fleisher

While on the hill, I called in to the KSFO morning show. Sheri Yee answered the phone and put me on live with Brian Sussman and Katie Green. While sharing my experiences, a volley of artillery fired. It was so intense, my call was interrupted. After the call I turned to look toward Gaza.

It was here that I felt the stress, this deep emotion, the subconscious recognition of danger, as I observed smoke in the distance, military vehicles nearby, explosions of a terror tunnel being blown up, the earth shaking from howitzers.

I now understand some of the people of Sderot wanting to observe from the hill. It isn’t some sick, twisted, perverted hatred of the people in Gaza. They want to see their military stop the rockets falling. Stop the need for their children to play in underground bunkers. End their children screaming in the night to find shelter. They seek safety and security. It is distant enough to not see any more than I have described. It is a hope that their daily fears might be diminished.

As we left the hill, we stopped by the police station in Sderot where they collect the rockets for documenting and recording. Somehow, the national spokesperson for the police, Micky Rosenfeld, was there. He gave me a first-hand explanation of the different type of rocket husks they had piled around. Of particular concern, which can be seen in pictures not here, is the fact that the warheads are stuffed not just with explosives, but ball-bearings. Ball-bearings in a warhead serve no purpose other than to destroy people. Oh, and because they are superheated, they can start fires. Sick.

Israel Spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld with Ethan
Israel Spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld with Ethan Photo: Joshua Fleisher

Back to Jerusalem we went for another series of interviews in the studios of the Voice of Israel. Then I collapsed in an exhausted heap.

Thank you to Vicky Culver, Haole Craig, the Gorson’s, and everyone else for contributing so far.

If you haven’t yet and would like to support this trip. Please contribute what you can by clicking the Donate button below.

Contributions of $100 will receive public acknowledgement on this website’s postings from Israel.

Contributions of $500 or more will receive public acknowledgement in videos I produce and on my nationally syndicated Ethan Bearman Show.

Thank you!



Please note that donations to Ethan Bearman Company are not a tax deductible charitable donation

Arrival in Israel July 29, 2014

Signs all over for bomb shelters
Signs all over for bomb shelters

I safely arrived at Tel Aviv Ben Gurion Airport today, July 29, 2014. The first thing I noticed upon departing the plane were the bomb shelter signs every 50 feet. Slightly ominous, but strangely no different than tornado shelter signs in the Midwest. Yes, yes, bombs are made by humans and tornadoes are natural.

Then my driver, Alexei, drove me to Jerusalem. Along the way we passed both Israeli and Palestinian towns. They all had walls, fences, and checkpoints. Otherwise the notable difference was that the Palestinians had black water tanks on their rooftops, while the Israelis had white or silver. And I liked how the road signs were in three languages:: Hebrew, Arabic, and English.

Jerusalem road sign in 3 languages
Jerusalem road sign in 3 languages

Dropped my bags at the hotel and was warmly greeted by Chanan Elias with The Face of Israel. We walked across the street to the brand new, state-of-the-art, Voice of Israel studios to begin recording my interviews.

Ethan, Binyamin the senior engineer, and manager/host Yishai Fleisher
Ethan, Binyamin the senior engineer, and manager/host Yishai Fleisher

I interviewed eight people right away. Then, exhausted and hungry, I went to grab a beer and pita smothered yummy meat, carrots, and other veggies, with the entertaining Chanan.

Chanan Elias and Ethan Bearman
Chanan Elias and Ethan Bearman

My arrival could not have gone any smoother.

Thank you to Vicky Culver, Haole Craig, the Gorson’s, and everyone else for contributing so far.

If you haven’t yet and would like to support this trip. Please contribute what you can by clicking the Donate button below.

Contributions of $100 will receive public acknowledgement on this website’s postings from Israel.

Contributions of $500 or more will receive public acknowledgement in videos I produce and on my nationally syndicated Ethan Bearman Show.

Thank you!



Please note that donations to Ethan Bearman Company are not a tax deductible charitable donation

Help Support the Truth About Israel

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As rockets continue to fly from Gaza, I leave for Israel on Monday, July 28th in the pursuit of knowledge to share with pictures, video, and audio for radio shows. This trip will entail interviews with government officials, military, civilians, and more.

I will be reporting back to numerous radio stations and shows live in the United States, sharing thoughts and photos on this blog, publishing videos on YouTube, and playing interviews on my radio shows upon my return.

A wonderful group called America’s Voices in Israel is helping to coordinate interviews, studio time, and visits around the country including the fence with Gaza.

But, all of this requires financial resources, and this is where I need your help!

Please contribute what you can by clicking the Donate button below.

Contributions of $100 will receive public acknowledgement on this website’s postings from Israel.

Contributions of $500 or more will receive public acknowledgement in videos I produce and on my nationally syndicated Ethan Bearman Show.

Thank you!



Please note that donations to Ethan Bearman Company are not a tax deductible charitable donation

The State of Local Talk Radio

From the Talkers 2014 conference in New York City, Ethan introduces the panel moderated by David Bernstein, featuring Jerry Crowley, Mike Baxendale, Lee Harris, McGraw Milhaven, Larry Young:



If you can’t see the video, click this LINK to the video

Big Weekend of Independence Day Shows

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The Independence Day weekend will start off with a bang! CBS Radio Philadelphia, Talk Radio 1210 WPHT, has invited me to do a show from 3 to 4 p.m. Eastern Time on the Fourth of July! What could be better than doing a show in the actual city where the Second Continental Congress met and ratified the Declaration of Independence?!? Click HERE to listen to WPHT online.

Saturday and Sunday from 4 to 7 p.m. Pacific Time is the Ethan Bearman Program on Hot Talk 560 KSFO in San Francisco. Dr. Kevin R.C. Gutzman will join me on Saturday at 4:30 p.m.to discuss the historical implications of that risky move by our founding fathers. Sunday at 4:30 p.m. will be interviews with the latest victims of the Injection Drug User (IDU) needle epidemic in Santa Cruz. Click HERE to listen to KSFO online.

Then Monday and Tuesday from 5 to 9 a.m. Pacific Time, I’ll be guest hosting for Brian Sussman on the KSFO morning show with Katie Green and Sheri Yee.

Thank you all for your support and spread the word!

WPHT Coverage Area Map from Radio-Locator.com